ARMAGH 3-14 OFFALY 0-3
Richard Bullick at Abbey Grammar
A comparatively poor performance was still easily enough for Armagh against outclassed Offaly in Newry on Sunday as James Daly’s side made it four from four in the Tesco Homegrown National League.
Majestic captain Caroline O’Hanlon, fresh from a British SuperLeague netball match in England the night before, led the way with 1-4 and covered every blade of artificial grass on Abbey Grammar’s astroturf pitch.
Lively sub Siobhan Mackle looked like a player with a point to prove and she scored a great goal and a point as reward for an eye-catching cameo full of hunger, urgency and threat in possession.
Armagh had an interval lead of 10 points and a repeat performance on the scoreboard in the second half left 20 between the teams in the end but this was a frustratingly indifferent display by the vastly superior hosts.
Former captain Mags McAlinden opened the scoring after a minute, rounding off an attack launched by her successor O’Hanlon, who was back in the team after missing the win over Longford due to Northern Ireland’s netball tour of the Caribbean.
The skipper missed a difficult free from an acute angle on the right but was involved in everything, setting up Aoife McCoy for a shot which was tipped away for a 45 and then going on a brilliant run from defence only to play too heavy a final ball.
O’Hanlon was on target with two frees in as many minutes either side of a left-footed point by Kelly Mallon as Armagh surged clear. Her second followed good work down the left by herself and corner back Sarah Marley.
Marley carried well on an afternoon when the full back line of herself, big sister Caoimhe Morgan and Mairead Tennyson were among Armagh’s top performers in containing Offaly to three points in total.
Crossmaglen’s Lauren McConville went wide as did O’Hanlon either side of a fantastic swerve by Fionnuala McKenna who had, however, a disappointing afternoon by her high standards.
The imperious O’Hanlon atoned for her wide by striding through to fire clinically to the net midway through the half and McConville immediately added a point to put Armagh eight up as the heavy rain started to relent.
Armagh retrieved possession after Morgan uncharacteristically gave the ball away and a great run from Sarah Marley got the Orchard outfit back on the attack only for McKenna to spill possession after another burst by O’Hanlon.
Although Armagh were winning comfortably, O’Hanlon showed fantastic commitment in mopping up possession after Tennyson slipped turning to pick up her slightly wayward original pass.
That led to another productive period for her team, Mallon landing her second point followed by two from the captain’s Carrickcruppen clubmate either side of a McKenna free.
The Division Three title favourites had now posted 12 points with reply but Offaly finally troubled the umpires at that end with the last two scores of the opening half to ensure Armagh’s half-time lead was the same as against Longford a week earlier.
In the end they doubled that 10 point lead by the final whistle but Armagh didn’t start again with the purpose they would have talked about, O’Hanlon guilty of a degree of greed and also surprisingly opting not to shoot with the target in her sights.
Offaly had kicked two wides at the other end before O’Hanlon opened Armagh’s account for the second half and it took the introduction of Grange girl Mackle – on for McAlinden – to lift the home team, starting with an athletic claim almost immediately.
McConville kicked a wide and McKenna put over her second free just before Mackle cut in from an acute angle on the left and hit the net with pleasing power and precision.
O’Hanlon landed her fourth point but Armagh wasted an excellent chance when she played the ball to Murray rather than letting fly and the move ended with McConville striking the cross-bar.
Armagh were guilty of far too much sloppy play and McKenna was the highest profile casualty as an irate Daly called the Harps star ashore late in the third quarter, replaced by her old schoolmate Danielle Morgan.
The game meandered on with a succession of substitutions but no further scores until Tennyson, who had moved forward, pointed from play but rookie Dearbhail Campbell, Mallon and Niamh Henderson were wasteful with clear chances.
It was still a memorable day for painfully nervous newcomer Campbell as O’Hanlon generously laid on a goal for her rather than burying the ball in the net herself. Mackle kicked a point before Offaly, as in the first half, had the final word with their third score of the day.
ARMAGH: C McAlinden; M Tennyson (0-1), C Morgan, S Marley; R Murphy, N Marley, M McGuinness; N Henderson, C O’Hanlon (capt; 1-4, 2f); A McCoy, F McKenna (0-2, 2f), L McConville (0-1); M McAlinden (0-1), K Mallon (0-2), C Murray (0-2). Subs: S Mackle (1-1) for M McAlinden (36 mins), A Doran for Murphy (38), D Morgan for McKenna (43), D Campbell for Murray (45), C Duffy for McCoy (48), C O’Callaghan for McConville (51), C Marley for Tennyson (55), M Burns for Henderson (59).